Don’t panic. Remember that because of the high prevalence of TB in South Africa, many of us have already been exposed to the TB germ many times. It is estimated that around 60% of adults in the Western Cape have a latent TB infection; in other words they cannot transmit TB and are not sick, but already carry the TB germ in their bodies. If you are an adult who has had close contact with someone with TB, but do not have a compromised immune system and are not displaying any symptoms of TB, you do not need to have a TB test.
Remember that anyone who is has been on effective TB treatment for 2 weeks is no longer infectious.
Try to find out as much as you can about TB so that you have something factual and concrete to work with. Learn the symptoms of TB so that you know when someone should go for a TB test. Consult your clinic, family doctor or TB/HIV Care Association on 021 425 0050 if you are unsure of anything.
TB affects children differently to adults. It is very difficult, for example, for a child to transmit TB to another child, and an adult is almost always the source of infection. TB may also manifest not only in the lungs of children, but also even more dangerously, in other parts of the body such as the brain. TB can also be difficult to diagnose in a child because they find it difficult to cough up sputum.
If your child is under five and has been in close contact with someone who is diagnosed as having TB, the child will probably be put onto isoniazid preventative therapy (IPT). IPT is a precaution taken to ensure that any latent TB that may have infected the child is eliminated.
If you feel comfortable speaking to someone at your local clinic or your doctor, this might be a good place to start because they are likely to know what resources and support groups are available in your area. There are also helplines that you can call anonymously for advice and counselling. These are listed below. Remember that you may not find what you are looking for on your first attempt, try again until you do. Don’t give up.